When you give school kids aged 8-12 pencil, oil and paper and ask them to paint their impressions of a city, the nature and the scope of what they produce may surpass all expectations, sometimes even cause viewers to gasp. That is what has happened for five years in a row at the “Vision of the Child” competition, hosted as part of the Lagos Black Heritage Festival since 2012.
“I was impressed by the quality of the works last year, said festival coordinator Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka during the 2014 edition. “I wanted to challenge them to do more. Basically, let’s see how these kids look at us.”
And, to the surprise of everyone, the kids have shown that they know the environment they are being raised in. Over the course of the competitions, the young participants have painted a commentary somewhat that reflects every aspect of Nigerian life, from corrupt politicians and policemen to economic downturn and ritual killings.
“The kids really understand the theme,” says renowned artist Tola Wewe, one of the contest’s judges. “They know what is happening in Nigeria…they understand the political situation in the country.”
Back in 2012 Foluke Goerge, the competition’s coordinator, didn’t think the kids could interpret such complex themes as: The Rule of Law and Law of Impunity.
“I saw the mind of a child interpreting Nigeria,” she says in a documentary produced by the organisers. “The children have blown our minds.”
The theme for this year’s competition, the fifth in the series, is: Sisi Eko at 50: Ageing Gracefully, or Na So So Pancake, chosen to fit into the 50th anniversary celebrations of the creation of Lagos State in 1967.
Out of 500+ entrants/ participants, drawn from schools across the state, 50 finalists were shortlisted for their brilliant interpretation of the theme. The judges have since awarded the top winners for this year’s competition at a dinner inside the Civic Centre on 27 May (Children’s Day), the event symbolically serving as the official kickoff for the year-long Lagos @ 50 celebrations.
Taking a tour of the paintings, here is our selection of some of the most thoughtful interpretations of the theme. See if you can make sense of the selection (including the two above)